Friday, October 24, 2014

Daycare by the numbers: Quebec’s progressive blueprint for Canada

Ever since NDP leader Tom Mulcair promised Canadians a scaled-down version of Quebec’s $7-a-day childcare, Quebec’s universal model for daycare benefits has come under renewed attacks from free-market economists.

Esteemed economist Stephen Gordon says Quebec’s model is “regressive” and goes so far as to claim its supporters are “intellectually bankrupt”. He resorted to similar acrimony attacking tuition cuts, opponents of FIPA and hikes to minimum wage.

How we rate

Before challenging the claims of small-government experts, let’s see how we rank in social spending, childcare subsidies and pre-primary education compared to other developed countries.

Source: OECD Social Expenditure Database. Every percentage point of GDP equals $18.8-billion. The 4.3 point gap from average means that our social spending is below average by $81-billion a year.

Source: OECD Family database (PF3.1). The 0.34 point difference from average comes to $6.3-billion a year.

After decades of “starve the beast” tax cuts — and the consequent social spending cuts — we have fallen to the bottom of the class.

Quebec setting a bad example?

Our low score on childcare spending would be much worse if it wasn’t for Quebec. They spend 60% of our nation’s total on childcare. Without them, we’d come next to last.

But according to free-market economist Stephen Gordon, Quebec is the problem. In an economics blog — where he claims Harper’s Orwellian-titled “Universal Child Care Benefit” meets the criteria for progressiveness — he criticizes Quebec’s $7-a-day plan for being regressive.

He bases this on a 2002 thesis study of Quebec’s daycare plan that shows that two-parent low-income families use daycare less than wealthy families (which Andrew Coyne also cited in a recent column.)

Closer look

First, the “average subsidy received” is a nonsense number. Every family received the same amount per child, which was $6,600 back then.

Second, it’s not surprising the lowest income group used the daycare benefit the least. This includes families with providers who are part-time workers (often unwillingly) as well as those who are on unemployment insurance, welfare and disability. There may be one stay-at-home parent, which means the family doesn’t require daycare. Or money might be so tight even $7-a-day is too much and they rely on family for free childcare.

Third, if both parents are employed full-time — even at minimum wage — they will no longer belong to the bottom 25%. So daycare benefits actually lift low-income families out of poverty.

Investment pays for itself

To better help out low-income families, free daycare spaces can also be provided. This would be especially helpful for single mothers who want to increase their living standards by working instead of relying on meager social assistance benefits.

As the Toronto Star points out, Quebec’s childcare program creates enough economic growth to pay for itself:

By 2008, about 70,000 more women with young children had entered the workforce who would not otherwise have been working, a 3.8 per cent increase, [economics professor Pierre] Fortin found. The ripple effect of their employment pumped an additional $5.2 billion into the Quebec economy, boosting the province’s Gross Domestic Product by 1.7 per cent.
The increased economic activity, which includes mothers’ income and consumption taxes, more than covered the province’s $1.6 billion annual child-care costs that year. (The province subsidizes each spot by about $10,000 annually.) And it poured more than $700 million in additional revenue into federal coffers.

Why Quebec’s plan is progressive

Economists who criticize Quebec’s plan for being “regressive” are bad at accounting. They ignore how the subsidy is funded: through progressive taxation.

So while a universal daycare program “gives free money to rich people” — providing the same benefit for everyone — the wealthy pay much more for the “free money.”

Examining the costs of expanding Quebec’s plan nationwide

To see how much free money the rich would really get under a national daycare program, let’s expand Quebec’s program nationwide and break down the costs. Quebec is upgrading its program to 250,000 spaces to meet demand. Extending their plan nationwide would require about one million childcare spaces.

Quebec spends about $10,700 for each childcare space. So federally, this would cost about $11-billion a year. Does that sound high? At 0.58% GDP that would be less than what South Korea spends on childcare.

Another way of putting this in perspective is comparing this spending to Harper’s tax cuts. Since coming to power, Harper has cut taxes by $45-billion a year — real free-money giveaways to the rich.

Although these tax cuts did nothing to boost anemic economic growth, expanding Quebec’s daycare federally would cost a fraction of the wasteful tax cuts, provide a much-needed service and produce actual economic benefits.

Daycare funding breakdown

There are 15.3 million family units in Canada to fund 1 million daycare spaces. (A family unit includes two or more people living together, with or without children, and unattached individuals.)

Daycare subsidies act like an insurance policy spreading out the cost — people pay in before and after they use it.

Childcare spending is also a good way to help low- and middle-income families struggling with high debt loads and falling real incomes (adjusted for inflation).

To get an idea of how much each family would pay for an $11-billion daycare program, personal income taxes make up about 41% of federal and provincial general revenues. That would mean income taxes would pay for $4.5-billion of $11-billion.

Here’s the break down by income group which shows the average annual cost per family:

Family group Tax share Income range Share of $4.5-billion Cost per family
Bottom 20% 0.9% $0 –
$41-million $13
Second 20% 4.6% $25,901 –
$207-million $68
Middle 20% 10.8% $46,101 –
$487-million $159
Fourth 20% 22.1% $70,801 –
$997-million $326
Top 20% 61.6% $111,501
and up
$2.78-billion $908

Clearly the wealthiest don’t benefit the most. They pay a lion’s share of the cost because they make a lion’s share of the income.

Cutting costs

Quebec’s daycare spaces are expensive! At a $10,700 annual subsidy plus the $7-a-day charge that adds up to $12,520 a year, or over $48 a day. Daycare costs in Ontario are around $31 a day.

If costs could be brought down to $35 a day, the total cost would be reduced from $11-billion a year to $7.3-billion a year.

Cost per day Charge per day Subsidy per child Cost of subsidy
$48 $7 $10,660 $10.7-billion
$10 $9,880 $9.9-billion
$15 $8,580 $8.6-billion
$35 $7 $7,280 $7.3-billion
$10 $6,500 $6.5-billion
$15 $5,200 $5.2-billion

To keep costs down, daycare could be broken up into two groups: basic and premium. Like the government dictates what doctors can charge per visit, it can also cap basic child care spaces at $30 a day, where the charge to parents is $7. Then a fixed number of premium spaces could be allowed to charge $45 a day and higher. Wealthier parents would get the same subsidy as everyone else — $23 a day — but pay a higher charge: $22 a day and up. That would cut costs to $6-billion a year.

We can also restructure existing childcare spending. (Clearly it makes no sense to pile childcare subsidy on top of childcare subsidy):

Spending Aprroximate Cost
Universal Child Care Benefit $2.5-billion
Childcare expense deduction $1-billion
Existing childcare spending $4-billion
Total $7.5-billion

Finding tax room

Canada is not only a laggard in social and childcare spending, it’s also a laggard in collecting taxes when compared to other developed nations. A study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that the richest pay the lowest tax rate:

The top one per cent of Canadian families — those earning at least $266,000 — paid 30.5 per cent of their income in taxes in 2005. That was less than any other income group — even the lowest.

Here’s how Canada compares when it comes to taxes:

Our effective corporate tax rate is so low because of 50% in corporate tax cuts since 2000, plus many corporate subsidies including $2.8-billion a year in tar-sands subsidies.

Source: KPMG’s Individual Income Tax and Social Security Rate Survey 2012.

Source: OECD Revenue Statistics.

The 4.9 point difference between what we collect in taxes now compared to what we collected in the 1990s amounts to over $92-billion a year in lost revenues.

Divide and Conquer

Why do right-wing economists claim universal benefits are regressive and only help the rich? Why do they claim it’s better to help the poor directly?

In short, their economic policy is agenda-driven. Here they are trying to divide and conquer society by pitting middle-income earners against low-income earners and centrists against progressives.

Stephen Gordon shows his real intention is to “starve the beast” and keep taxes low — not help the poor. He boils down the starve-the-beast agenda to a four-point plan:

  1. Bring in big tax cuts

  2. Create a budget crisis

  3. Make deep cuts to spending

  4. Go to 1

Low-tax economists know that under budget constraints the poor are the first to come under attack with little media attention.

Take, for example, when Harper cut unemployment insurance benefits for low-income workers — reducing coverage to 4 out of 10 workers. Did Gordon criticize Harper for attacking the poor? No. But he did callously remark when Harper spent the savings on an EI tax cut:

Beast. Starving a tad more. "Conservatives to cut EI premiums in response to sluggish job market"

Society is united with universal benefits. They also justify additional spending to better help low-income families.


Over the past 35 years, real incomes (adjusted for inflation) have fallen for all but the wealthiest Canadians. Unlike the centrist Keynesian era (1945-1980), all segments of society are no longer benefiting from economic and productivity growth.

To level the playing field, we need to increase public benefits so Canadians have more money in their pockets. This will not only raise living standards, it will boost economic (GDP) growth — now the lowest its been since the Great Depression.

The low-tax, small-government, free-market reforms of the past 3 decades have been a colossal failure. It’s time to turn the tide. We need to bring back postwar levels of progressive taxation and restore our Just Society.


Annual daycare costs are based on 260 childcare days per year.

The OECD’s study PF3.1 Public spending on childcare and early education didn’t include numbers for Canada’s childcare spending. These were taken from the The state of early childhood education and care in Canada 2012 report by The 2009 number in 2012 constant dollars was converted to 2009 dollars. This number was divided by Canada’s 2009 GDP at current market prices. ($3,732,696,996 2012 $CAD -> 3,509,347,093.78 2009 $CAD; 3,509 / 1,567,007 $millions = 0.002239 => 0.224% GDP.)

Statistics Canada tables:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Neo-conservative assault on minimum wage based on manufactured evidence

To free-market purists, the 19th century was a golden age. Back then the size of government was miniscule. The rich paid ultralow taxes. Regulations were little to nonexistent. There were no worker benefits, either private or public. There was no overtime pay, vacation pay, 40-hour work week or minimum wage.

So it’s not surprising to find these market fundamentalists waging a war against minimum wage increases in Canada and the US.

Creative Economics

One of the most ridiculous attacks comes from esteemed neo-conservative economist Stephen Gordon, who the Liberals point to as the “expert” they base their new EI “job creation” tax cut on.

Using flaky math to massage the statistics, Gordon claims a 13% rise in Canada's real minimum wage (adjusted for inflation) from 2008 to 2013 killed “between 70,000 and 164,000 jobs” among young Canadians.

Counter-factual counterfactuals

Here’s Gordon’s graph showing the difference between what happened — and what could’ve been — if only we had left minimum wage alone:

Of course, Gordon's weaselnomics leave out the fact that the Great Recession — which all Western economies have yet to recover from 6 years and counting — is the actual cause of the drastic drop in youth employment.

Canada’s minimum wage not high

When compared to other Anglo-Saxon countries, our minimum wage is far from the maximum.

International comparison

According to Gordon’s hypothesis, Australia should’ve suffered the worst losses in youth employment because they have the highest minimum wage, by far.

But the evidence doesn’t support this self-serving claim. In fact, all countries faced similar drops in youth employment:

Peak to 2013 levels

To get a better picture, here’s a comparison of drops in youth employment from peak to 2013 levels: Canada 8%, Australia 9%, US 14%, UK 14%.

Canada and Australia fared better because they didn’t have financial meltdowns and their economies were boosted by resource exports.

Krugman on young workers

In Paul Krugman’s book, End this Depression Now! he talks about the terrible toll the Great Recession has had on workers, especially the young:

Not since the 1930s have so many Americans found themselves seemingly trapped in a permanent state of joblessness. …
Meanwhile, there’s the plight of those who don’t have a job yet, because they’re entering the working world for the first time. Truly, this is a terrible time to be young.
Unemployment among young workers, like unemployment for just about every demographic group, roughly doubled in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, then drifted down a bit. But because young workers have a much higher unemployment rate than their elders even in good times, this meant a much larger rise in unemployment relative to the workforce.


Stephen Gordon exemplifies why economics is dismal, but doesn’t remotely resemble a science. In the hands of market fundamentalists, economics is nothing more than politics with math thrown in to lend authority to political agendas.

A higher minimum wage could cause a drop in employment, or it could create jobs as people spend and save more boosting the economy.

There are too many factors involved to calculate its precise affect. All that can be said with certainly is that it hasn’t had a pronounced effect either way — not in Canada, and not in Australia where the minimum wage is currently $16.50 CAD (and unemployment is 6.1%.)

Given we have returned to Gilded Age levels of inequality, it’s better to err on the side of social justice than the plutocrats’ bottom line.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Neo-conservative economists try browbeating Canadians on FIPA

Harper quietly announced his government ratified the FIPA investor-protection treaty with China.

Justin Trudeau quietly avoided the issue. (Although it’s clear he supports FIPA given he criticized Harper for putting limits on Chinese investment in the tar-sands.)

But some neo-conservative economists were much more vocal.

Economist Kevin Milligan

Kevin Milligan tweeted that opponents of FIPA are ultranationalist hypocrites:

What happens if you apply the Green/nationalist ‘sovereignty über alles’ framework to international climate treaties? Or is that just difft?

Only an economist could be this obtuse. Yes giving up democratic rights to stop destructive behaviors and preserve the world for future generations is a smart thing to do.

Right-wing politicians and economists are silent on how FIPA is good for Canada.

But China is a totalitarian dictatorship. Why would we want to cede sovereignty to fascist oligarchs who want unfettered access to our resources, especially the dirty-energy tar-sands? The two are the very opposite, not the same!

Economist Stephen Gordon

Stephen Gordon uses the same nationalist rhetoric implying critics are flag-worshipping racists.

He insists FIPA can’t stop a government from passing laws that protect the environment.

Of course, he’s an neo-con economist with an ideological vested interest. Not a lawyer with expertise in international trade agreements.

Trade expert Gus Van Harten

One such expert is Gus Van Harten. He is not a neo-Nazi, as Gordon might have you believe, but an Osgoode Hall law professor who has written two books on investment treaties. One criticism he has:

Chinese companies will be able to seek redress against any laws passed by any level of government in Canada which threaten their profits. Australia has decided not to enter FIPA agreements specifically because they allow powerful corporations to challenge legislation on social, environmental and economic issues.
Chinese companies investing heavily in Canadian energy will be able seek billions in compensation if their projects are hampered by provincial laws on issues such as environmental concerns or First Nations rights, for example.


Given Australia — which already does a lot of trade with China — can export its resources to China without a FIPA treaty, why on Earth do we need one?

Trade expert Lawrence Herman

Another critic is Lawrence Herman who is a senior fellow of the C.D. Howe Institute. He says:

A concern I have is that these arbitration decisions are rendered by ad hoc tribunals, appointed for a given dispute only. … Yet these impermanent tribunals are often deciding issues of social or economic policy of national importance.
Australia – a country that shares many interests with Canada – now says it will no longer sign such investment protection agreements, arguing that if Australian businesses are concerned about sovereign risk in other countries, they should make their own assessments about whether they want to invest in those places.

Crybaby Capitalism

Why do free-market economists demand a social safety net for businessmen who want to move their businesses to China? Talk about hypocrisy!

What does Canada have to gain?

Gordon’s logic behind FIPA is not at all assuring. He says because we have a massive trade deficit with China — buying a lot more goods from them then they buy from us — we have to let them buy up Canadian assets to balance things out:

Capital flows are the obverse side of trade flows. It makes no sense to claim to be in favour of international trade but against international flows of capital. …
As it happens, Canada runs a fairly large trade deficit with China: roughly $30 billion per year. This means that as far as China is concerned, trade with Canada is essentially a matter of them accumulating large amounts of Canadian assets.

Wow that sounds like an appealing offer! No wonder Harper tried to bury the announcement!


Germany recently raised concerns about investor-protection rules in the Canadian-Europe Trade Agreement (CETA.) If Germany doesn’t trust Canadian businessmen with these kind of powers, why would we trust a totalitarian superpower with them?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Trudeau: bigger, badder EI tax cut

When Stephen Harper recently announced an EI tax cut for small businesses, did Justin Trudeau demand that Harper reverse his draconian cuts to EI benefits instead?

Considering the Liberals have a petition called Stop Harper’s cuts to Employment Insurance, that’s what one would’ve expected.

Bigger, badder tax cut

But Trudeau actually criticized Harper for not going far enough and put forward his own bigger, badder EI tax cut that would let corporations in on the action (which aleady receive a $15-billion-a-year tax cut thanks to Harper.)

Not only is Trudeau blowing the small EI fund surplus on another trickle-down tax cut, he’s cementing in place Harper’s harsh cuts that destroy the social safety net.

Bad Math

As the Progressive Economics Forum points out, Trudeau’s plan rests on bad math. Trudeau says his tax cut will “create” 176,000 jobs and cost $225-million. But these jobs are expected to be created with or without any tax cut.

Trudeau says Harper's trickle-down tax cut doesn't go far enough.

Not only that, it’s difficult to determine what businesses create a "net new job." So the number of businesses trying to claim the tax cut could cause costs to spiral out of control.

Cheating workers

The Liberals and Conservatives have turned Canada’s unemployment insurance program into a tax on poor workers who are forced to pay for premiums on benefits they’re ineligible to receive.

The coverage rate has fallen to an appalling 36% of those who pay in!

Bad History

The EI benefit cuts began in the early 1990s when the Liberals came in power.

A massive recession in 1991 caused the unemployment rate to spike which caused a deficit in the "EI" fund (previously called UI.)

This “crisis” was turned into an opportunity to slash benefits based on the neoliberal principle that a strong safety net discourages people from looking for work.

By disqualifying workers and slashing benefits, the EI fund ballooned to $54-billion by 2008. Both the Liberals and Conservatives used the surplus to pay down government debt — essentially stealing over $50-billion from workers.


We need an alternative to Harper. Not a prettier version of Harper.

We need someone willing to stand up for Canadians and the social safety net. Not tear it down to award wealthy investors and businessmen more free-money tax cuts that never create jobs.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Partisan hypocrisy shows why voting reform is doomed

When Harper won a fake majority on 39.6% of the vote, many Liberals claimed it was an outrage and affront to democracy. Now that Wynne won one on 38.7%, they say she earned a mandate from the people.

Partisan corruption

Major party partisans will always be opposed to voting reform — including the NDP in provinces where they are a major party — because they care more about winning than what’s best for the people.

They will gladly sit on the sidelines while a neo-con party destroys the place, just as long as they get their turn at absolute corrupt power.

Federal Liberal about about face

Take for example the federal Liberal party which fell to minor party status in 2011. Traditionally supporters of First-Past-the-Post, they embraced ranked ballot voting reform wile licking their wounds.

But as soon as they rose to first place in the polls, they predictably ditched their commitment.

The death march of democracy

Now if Trudeau wins in 2015, he will destroy electoral reform for good in Canada with another designed-to-fail PR referendum that killed voting reform in BC, Ontario & PEI.

With an impossible 60% win threshold and a ballot that excludes ranked ballot supporters, the Second Coming has better odds of success.

This farce will drive the final nail in the electoral-reform coffin making corrupt First-Past-the-Post the democratic choice of Canadians.


Democracy in Canada is an insane asylum.

We award absolute corrupt power to minority parties, excluding the actual majority from government. We are stuck wih some other country’s monarch as our head of state. We have an appointed senate filled with partisan hacks that has equal power to the democratic house. We have a corrupt fourth estate owned by corporations that abandons journalistic objectivity to meddle and campaign in general elections.

Getting involed with our slipshod implement of democracy is the equivalent of going to a Christian Fundie holy-roller church service. Either you check your brains at the door or are rendered incredulous by the spectacle.

Liberals didn’t fool progressive or centrist voters

This election in Ontario, the Liberal party’s campaign strategy was to out-left the NDP and win the majority they missed by one seat in 2011. They did this with a bullshit progressive budget and outrageous attacks against NDP leader Andrea Horwath claiming she was a right-wing Rob Ford clone.

Ironically, it was a 4 point drop from the Tim Hudak PCs that allowed Kathleen Wynne to win a fake majority on 38.7% of the vote.

Progressives not fooled

None of the right-wing crap the Liberals threw at Andrea Horwath actually stuck. Which just goes to show the more desperate the rhetoric the less likely the public is going to be deceived by it, regardless of the volume.

Andrea’s NDP made a 1 point gain from the 2011 election. That’s 42% higher than previous NDP leader Howard Hampton was able to take things — and double the seats.

So Liberals didn’t fool progressive or centrist voters — despite the Toronto Star pumping out daily op-eds of ethically-bankrupt propaganda.

It would seem the tabloid journalism of Sun News and The Star only ends up preaching to the choir.

NDP on right track

Despite our absurd voting system that awards absolute power to a minority party on less than 40% of the vote, Andrea is clearly on the right track.

Jack Layton forged the new NDP which unites left-leaning and centrist voters to stop the neo-liberal agenda being perpetrated by the Con and Liberal parties over the past 2 to 3 decades.

Despite complaints from the odd left-wing ideologue and Liberals pretending to be progressives, this path is clearly the right way forward.

Where Andrea went wrong

Jack Latyon ran the perfect campaign. His campaign ads showed, in a light-hearted way, that the Liberals were just another version of the Conservative party. But he also offered a positive vision for Canadians.

This election Andrea focused too much on Liberal corruption and mismanagement, and not enough on her own vision for Ontarians.

Pocketbook populism

Jack Layton’s pocket-book populism is the key to the NDP forming the government and ending 30 years of Tough Tory Times.

It gives everyone a break, but the lowest-income group gets the biggest relative benefit. Contrast this to Conservative and Liberal tax cuts (which they either implement or cement in place.) They give the rich the biggest benefit while the little people are gouged to pay for them.

So the best way to reach out to the 99% of voters is to push affordability and tax fairness and make sure the message gets out loud and clear.

Even right-leaning voters can go for this, which helps split the right-vote keeping the neo-con party from power. (The neo-cons being the Liberals in a hurry to destroy the Just Society centrist liberals and social democrats built up in the post-WW2 era.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Everything you wanted to know about politics, but didn't care enough to ask

Here are a few political observations I have made over the years:

Politics and sports

Politics and sports are colossal wastes of time. But people seem to enjoy the latter.

Politics and sports are similar: everything’s about your team winning.

If your team wins you either pretend good is being done, or wait until your team is back in the playoffs and assume good was being done.

If your team does wrong, it’s no big deal. If the other team does wrong, it’s an inexcusable outrage.

In politics you would rather believe black is white than believe your team is wrong for having chose black.

When your team loses you know what you have lost. When your team wins you’re never sure what you’ve won.


If you are one of the sheep, self interest is evil. If you are one of the shepherds, self interest is a privilege.

Anything good for the people is a bad idea. Anything bad for the people is “for the greater good.”

When pain is meted out to the people “for the good of society,” money is meted out — for the good of the wealthy.


When democracy is a horse race the only ones represented are those who own the horses.

In Canada an arbitrary minority party is awarded all the power. The actual majority of voters ends up opposing the government.

National politics is like high school politics — depressingly primitive but without the faint hope of sex.

People who are lazy and apathetic about politics are dumb. Prominent campaign issues are even dumber.

The more people gather together, the lower their collective IQ. During an election campaign, it falls to the level of dumb beast.

An election campaign consists of different teams trying to coax a dumb beast to their side of the pen. The beast doesn’t understand the issues. The coaxers are too intent on coaxing to care about the issues.

The platform of the winning team often becomes a forgotten footnote of the previous election.


The role of the progressive is to sit on the sidelines complaining about regressives destroying the country.

Politicians are narcissists. Political junkies get stuck with the least satisfying form of addiction.

Journalists would make good mobsters. There is nothing they can’t rationalize.

Politicians discard their values and principles for a stab at power. Journalists discard theirs for a paycheck.


Free market ideology is like a disease. It’s also touted as the cure.

Economics is dismal, but it doesn’t remotely resemble a science.

Economics is pre-Copernican: economists can’t agree on whether the Earth revolves around the Sun, or the Sun around the Earth.

Economics is politics with math thrown in to lend authority to political agendas.

Democracy never a waste of time

An article form the CP suggests that the Ontario election was pointless because it might not lead to any major change.

They are wrong. Democracy is never a waste of time.

Of course, in Canada we have a distorted version of democracy because of our primitive, 19th-century voting system, First-Past-the-Post.

It awards absolute power to arbitrary minority parties on 40% of the vote, leaving the actual majority excluded from government. Or leads to short-lived minority governments where parties jockey for more power instead of govern.

Coalition government

In the rest of the developed world, multi-party coalition governments are the norm and they usually serve out the entire 4-year term without incident.

In Canada, coalition government is either a dirty word or political ploy, although certainly a legal form of government.

We should have more coalitions. If the Liberals and NDP have enough combined seats for a majority, they should put together a coalition that commits to an entire 4-year term and do what voters put them there to do: govern.

Voting reform

We also need to modernize our voting system with either ranked ballot voting or proportional representation (true voting) to ensure an actual majority is represented in government like 31 of 34 developed countries.

Ranked ballot voting fixes our existing system, locally, by ensuring politicians are elected by a majority. It stops vote splitting and ends 4-year dictatorships on 40% of the vote.

PR true voting ensures parties get the same percent of seats they got in votes by redistributing votes at a federal or provincial level. It’s the most-widely used system in the developed world, embraced by 29 of 34 countries.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Austerity doomed to fail

This election, Tim Hudak is another Mike Harris. That’s obvious.

But although Kathleen Wynne is pretending to be the “social justice” leader, as Bloomberg points out, she’s actually a “less draconian Harris” planning the “biggest Ontario cuts since 1995” when Harris came to power.

Great Depression austerity mistake

John Keynes — the father of centrist mixed-market economics responsible for a 30-year post-war boom — urged more government spending to end the Great Depression during the 1930s.

Governments balked, implemented austerity and prolonged the slump.

As Keynes pointed out, “the boom, not the slump, is the time for austerity.”

History repeats

Paul Krugman is a modern day Keynes. He’s been urging fiscal stimulus (government spending) to end the Great Recession since the free-market collapse in 2008.

But governments have been repeating the same mistakes of the 1930s, with the same disastrous results.


Krugman pointed out how American cuts have cost $200-billion a year in economic growth and added one point to the unemployment rate.


Europe embraced austerity and killed off their recovery. The bond-rating agency Standards & Poors actually downgraded European countries back in 2012 for plans to cut spending:

As such, we believe that a reform process based on a pillar of fiscal austerity alone risks becoming self-defeating, as domestic demand falls in line with consumers’ rising concerns about job security and disposable incomes, eroding national tax revenues.


The IMF recently documented how austerity has caused much more damage than right-wing experts had anticipated.

Indeed, if the fiscal multiplier is really, really high in certain situations—such as during a downturn— then austerity could prove counterproductive.
Those higher taxes and severe spending cuts will cripple growth so much that the nation will end up with an even bigger deficit than it started out with.

Debt burden

Since the debt burden is measured in debt/GDP, this means austerity actually increases the debt burden by slowing GDP growth. Economic growth since the 2008 meltdown is already anemic.

In the post-WW2 era, we paid down the debt by increasing government spending. Infrastructure and social spending created jobs and growth which raised tax revenues. Debt was paid down to 45% by the 1970s from over 100% after the war.

All pain no gain

Instead of inflicting pointless pain on the people and making the economy and debt-burden worse, we need to slow deficit-reduction plans.

As the IMF’s chief economist noted: “Decreasing debt is a marathon, not a sprint. Going too fast will kill growth.”

Progressive taxation

We also need to embrace the tax fairness we had in the post-WW2 era by eliminating costly tax cuts for the rich. These have added to soaring inequality which has caused economic growth to dwindle.

In Ontario, Mike Harris cut income taxes by 30% causing a $5.6-billion structural deficit we never recovered from. These tax cuts must be eliminated on the highest bracket.

Pointless corporate tax cuts

The Liberals also — outrageously — cut corporate taxes from 14% to 11.5% in 2010. (The NDP stopped them from cutting them to 10% in 2011.) This added $2.4-billion to a $10-billion deficit!

Considering Canada has the lowest corporate tax rate of ALL major economies, we must raise corporate taxes higher than 14%.

Step in the right direction

Only Andrea Horwath and Tom Mulcair plan to reverse these absurd corporate tax cuts. But much more needs to be done.

Ed Broadbent blasts Wynne’s presumptuous rhetoric

Apparently, Kathleen Wynne has become the champion of the poor and huddled masses this election. According to her, she has picked up the NDP torch left behind when Andrea Horwath abandoned her principles to become the “right-wing Rob Ford party.”

Of course it turns out Wynne wants left-leaning votes a lot more than she wants to represent them.

It turns out her “most progresssive budget in two decades” is also the most regressive budget in two decades according a Bloomberg analysis. They say Wynne will bring in the “biggest cuts since 1995.”

Ms. Wynne, you are no Ed Broadbent

Aside from claiming to be the party of “social justice,” Wynne has taken to invoking past NDP leaders whom she says Andrea has betrayed. One of them was Ed Broadbent.

Ed minced no words putting Wynne in her place:

Partisan debate is one thing, but by invoking my name in weekend speeches and articles to attack Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP, Kathleen Wynne has gone beyond the pale.
Let no one doubt: I fully support Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP.

Blast from the Past

David Reevely of the Ottawa Citizen noticed a parallel between Wynne’s government weighed down in scandal and that of Paul Martin’s in 2006.

In a column titled, If you invoke Ed Broadbent, you’d better know what you’re doing, he points out what Ed Broadbent — as an NDP MP under Jack Layton’s leadership — said of the Liberals back then:

No matter how unethical, undemocratic, and unprincipled the Liberal Party becomes, the team of insiders at the top can simply not imagine people choosing to take power away.
It should be taken away…its conduct in office has not been ethical. Its contempt for Parliament is rivaled only by its manipulation of voters.

Reevely concludes:

In his final statement as an MP in 2006, Ed said that the Liberals had lost the moral authority to govern.
And so too have the Ontario Liberals.

Biggest irony of the Ontario 2014 Election goes too…

Wynne says the NDP turned down the “most progressive budget in decades.”

Of course, this implies there was two decades of regressive PC and Liberal government. None of it was close to the left side of the political spectrum, that's for sure.

But it gets even better.

Progressive regression

According to Bloomberg, Wynne's platform actually contains the biggest cuts in decades: Wynne’s Budget Fortells Biggest Ontario Cuts Since Harris. Describes Wynne as a “less draconian Harris.”

Looks like the most progressive budget in decades also happens to be the most regressive budget in decades.

I imagine partisan cognitive dissonance of this magnitude must fry more brain cells than a crystal meth binge! Looks like I tore up my federal Liberal membership card Justin time!

Fooling pro-social

If Wynne does fool enough left-leaning voters into supporting her progressive/ regressive vision for Ontario, one has to wonder if Liberal progressives will even remember she ran on a progressive platform 3 years from now when we're eye-ball deep in “pain.”

I'm more than a little skeptical.

The fire

Many so-called progressives take an odd comfort in being in the frying pan rather than in the fire.

This certainly doesn't go unnoticed by those pulling the strings of the Liberal party. Every election Liberals raise the alarm about how terrible the fire is, hoping no one will notice how hot it's getting in the frying pan.

My “right-wing Rob Ford” idea of progressive is getting out of the frying pan and away from the fire!

In a hurry

It used to be said that the NDP was the Liberal party in a hurry. But over the past 20 years or so, it's become painfully obvious the neo-cons have taken on that role…

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Don’t listen to rhetoric, compare platforms for yourself

This Ontario election, the Liberal party and Toronto Star have used the most outrageous partisan rhetoric trying to weasel Left votes for a fake majority.

They are calling NDP leader Andrea Horwath a right-wing Margaret Thatcher and Rob Ford clone. This isn’t stretching the truth a little. It’s outright lying.

In my opinion, a party willing to do anything for power doesn’t deserve it. But this is something for voters to decide.

Campaign left, govern right

Voters should also be aware that a Bloomberg analysis of Wynne’s platform reveals it to be anything but “pro-social”.

They say she’s a “less draconian Harris” planning the “biggest Ontario cuts since 1995” when Mike Harris came to power.


Which platorm is more progressive?

Policy Liberal NDP Winner
Minimum wage $11/hr indexed to inflation. $12/hr indexed to inflation. NDP
Corporate taxes Keep McGuinty’s $2.4-billion a year in tax cuts. Reverse tax cuts by $760-million a year. Close tax loopholes. NDP
Income taxes Raise taxes on top 2% by $600-million. Raise taxes on top 2% by $600-million (taken from 2014 budget.) Tie
$29-billion TISAP transit plan Support plan. Support plan. Tie
Social assistance & disability rates 1% rate hike. Index to inflation (average 2% increase a year.) NDP
Personal Support Worker wages Raise by $4/hr. No committment. OLP
Child care Complete roll-out of full-day kindergarten $260-million investment in child care spaces NDP
Electricity rates 33% hike next 3 years, cut debt charge, 10% low-income assistance program. Cut HST & debt charge, plan to reduce rates. NDP
Extended pension plan Ontario plan. Maclean’s: good for high-income earners, bad for low-income. Like other provinces, wait until 2015 federal election before proceeding. NDP
Ontario Child Benefit Increase $8.33/month (8.3%), index to inflation ($1310/yr.) Increase $8.33/month (8.3%), index to inflation ($1310/yr.) Tie
Student tuition Keep 30% tuition cut. Keep 30% tuition cut + freeze tuition + 0% interest on student loans. NDP
Child nutrition $11.6-million a year increase. $15-million a year increase. NDP
Dental care for kids Expand coverage for 70,000 kids. Expand coverage for 100,000 kids. NDP
Health clinics Open 36 new health clinics. Open 50 24-hour health clinics, alternative to ER. NDP
Cutting ‘waste’ $1.25-billion a year. $600-million a year. NDP


This election, vote on facts and vote on principle.


The NDP platform is based on revenue sources from the Liberal 2014 budget. This includes things like the cancelation of the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit on electric bills and the $600M income tax hike on the top 2% income earners.

The Ontario Child Benefit included in the Liberal 2014 is also supported by the NDP. So is the Liberal 30% Off Tuition Grant.

NDP pocket-book populism great idea

For decades, the NDP has sat on the sidelines watching Conservative and Liberal governments tear down a Just Society.

The neo-cons come in with reckless tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich: Mulroney, Harris and Harper. Then “Liberals” get power and cement them in place: Chretien, Martin, McGuinty, Wynne and now Trudeau.

This “starve the beast” see-saw ratchets the pendulum further and further right.

It causes soaring inequality, dwindling economy growth, rising government debt and the hollowing out of the middle class. In short, it’s destroying the strong economy we built up in the post-WW2 era using centrist mixed-market economics.

New direction

The only hope Canada has to stop this course of self-destruction is if the NDP forms the government. But the only way they can do that is if they appeal to a broad range of voters. That’s how democracy works.

Pocket-book populism is the key. These measures benefit all members of society, but they benefit low-income earners the most.

This is the opposite of right-wing populism like across-the-board tax cuts — or even worse, corporate tax cuts — that primarily benefit the rich.

Splitting the right vote

With our primitive voting system, First-Past-the-Post, the neo-con party gets absolute power on 40% of the vote due to vote splitting. (In a real democracy, which 31 of 34 developed countries have, 50% is required for an absolute majority.)

To keep the neo-con party away from government, the right-leaning vote must be split.

The Liberals typically split the right vote by appealing to red Tory voters. They adopt a moderate form of neo-liberal ideology. Unfortunately, they become the red Tory party in the process.

The NDP’s pocket-book populism is in the self-interest of all voters, including right-leaning ones. This will help the Liberals split the right vote and keep neo-cons from power.

Protest party

Being a protest party is doing no one any good. Proposing lofty social benefits Liberal and Con majority governments simply ignore does no good.

It’s time for progressives and centrists to join forces to save Canada from this neo-liberal plague of the past 30 years. It’s not only tearing down the Just Society built up in the post-war era, it’s destroying the economy in the process.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Star’s most outrageous partisan rhetoric

I consider myself a non-partisan centrist liberal. Although I support the NDP this election in Ontario, I’m not a blind partisan married to any party.

This election, for me, is not about my team winning. It’s about moving the pendulum from the right-wing back towards the center where it was back in the Peterson era (for example.)

I think the Toronto Star’s Liberal bias this election is painfully obvious. They’ve written about 30 op-eds that smear Andrea Horwath and outright lie.

If one views politics like sports, you’ll believe that whatever lucky break your team gets you won fair and square. But when we’re talking about the role of the fourth estate, campaigning for a party is a clear violation of the rules.

Back in the day

Back during the 2011 federal election, I supported Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. The Toronto Star ended up endorsing Jack Layton. But I didn’t notice The Star promoting NDP talking points and strategies, or unfairly attacking Ignatieff. Back then they had high standards of journalistic integrity.

Not all Star journalists are sell-outs this election. Tim Harper is an example of honest, objective journalism. He has written two columns that touch on the Ontario election. There are no biases. No partisan agenda. He describes Andrea’s NDP as a “drift to the middle” — which it clearly is if you have any comprehension of the left-right economic political spectrum.

Liberal strategy

Before I get into exposing The Star’s most outrageous partisan rhetoric, I will point out the Liberal strategy this election, since it’s obviously related.

Considering the Liberals lost a fake majority by one seat in 2011, their game plan this time around is to elbow out the NDP and win enough left-leaning votes to secure their majority.

The Liberal long game is to destroy centrist NDP leaders like Andrea Horwath and Tom Mulcair. If they can divide-and-conquer the NDP, the party might react by electing ideological leadership. This will marginalize the party like it was under Howard Hampton and Alexa McDonough and pave the way for Liberal fake majorities.

The Star’s most outrageous partisan rhetoric

  • Andrea is a “right-wing populist”: Ronald Reagan was a right-wing populist. Brought in big income tax cuts from which the wealthy benefited the most.

    Andrea is clearly not a “starve the beast” neo-con trying to destroy post-war centrist “big government.”

    Following in Jack Layton’s footsteps, Andrea is a “pocket book” populist. Clearly left-wing. The idea is to make life more affordable for people struggling in an anemic economy with rising bills, fees and regressive taxes.

    Her measures do not benefit the rich the most. They benefit low-income the most. Of course, they are meant to appeal to the most people to attract the most votes. (It’s called democracy.)

  • Andrea is Margaret Thatcher: This is the complete negation of the truth. Thatcher made deep spending cuts, cut public benefits, busted unions, privatized public utilities. Really?

  • Andrea is Rob Ford: This particular propaganda is based on Andrea’s pledge to cut $600-million in bureaucratic waste, which is a modest 0.5% of the budget. Nothing like Ford’s right-wing “gravy train” rhetoric.

    The absurd reality is that Wynne’s budget contains her own $1.25-billion in cuts to bureaucratic waste. Add hypocrisy to the ridiculous smear.

  • Andrea supports a coalition with Hudak: This groundless story was concocted by Thomas Walkom, which Wynne ran with. (In fact, Wynne set the stage by raising the coalition issue out of the blue two days before.) Wynne went on a tirade condemning Andrea for the imaginary coalition.

    A few days later, Wynne hypocritically said she would prop up a Hudak minority. (See the whole sordid story here.)

  • Andrea abandoned her party’s principles/commitment to the poor: According to Liberals, the job of the NDP is to propose big social policies — as a minor opposition party to a Liberal or PC majority — which are to be summarily ignored as Liberals and PCs slash benefits to the poor and disabled.

    The NDP are smart to realize that an incremental approach is better, especially with the pendulum way out on the right side. In a democracy, broad support is required to govern and get something accomplished. Compromise is an unavoidable requirement.

  • Andrea rejected the most progressive budget in decades: After 20 years of regressive PC and Liberal governments? The Wynne government fell because of corruption, waste and broken promises. Instead of seeking support for her budget, Wynne ran attack ads.

    (Contrary to a long-held Liberal belief, Liberals are not entitled to power.)

    Wynnes’s budget is far from progressive. According to Bloomberg, it contains the “biggest cuts since 1995” when Mike Harris came to power.

    Her pension plan is also regressive. According to Maclean’s, it gives high-income earners a boost, but gouges low-income like the federal Liberal EI reforms of the Chretien era.

  • Wynne is campaigning on a stronger social justice platform than Andrea: If you compare platforms, it’s clear that Andrea is to the left of Wynne, as you would expect.

    Wynne’s real agenda is to campaign from the left, win a majority, then govern from the right. (A strategy Chretien was infamous for.)

    Bloomberg says Wynne’s platform contains the “biggest Ontario cuts since 1995” when Mike Harris came to power. Calls Wynne a “less draconian” Harris. Anyone who associates that with social justice doesn’t remember Harris very well.

  • Andrea is creating another liberal party: If Andrea has turned the NDP into a centrist liberal party, hers would be the only one.

    Over the past 20 years, the Liberal party abandoned centrist liberal values for neo-liberal ideology. They have embraced big spending cuts, cuts to public benefits, corporate tax cuts, privatization and small government.

    They have been enablers of a neo-con “starve the beast” agenda. Neo-cons like Mulroney, Harris and Harper bring in huge tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich. Then "Liberals" like Chretien, Martin, McGuinty, Wynne and now Justin Trudeau cement them in place. The pendulum gets ratcheted further and further rightwards every time.

    Why shouldn’t the NDP represent centrist liberals the Liberal party abandoned decades ago?