Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

 

Random GPC Policy of the Day: Canadian Ownership

Today’s Random Green Party Policy of the Day from Vision Green is page 129:

“In recent years more and more of Canada’s major companies and control over natural resources have been bought out by foreign-owned corporations. This is not in the best interests of Canadians.

Green Party MPs will:

- Sponsor and support legislation that restricts foreign ownership in Canada in strategic sectors so that Canadians remain in control of the destiny of Canada, reap the benefits from the exploitation of Canadian resources, and retain the right to determine their use and rate of exploitation.”

Quick Translation: Our fossil fuel and mineral sectors are almost completely foreign-controlled. We have almost no control over our own resources. And we want it back to ensure Canada stays strong.

Won’t it feel good to vote Green!

Posted by Vanessa on April 29th, 2011

Filed under Economics | 1 Comment »

Random GPC Policy of the Day: Pollution Taxes p13

Today’s Random Green Party Policy of the Day from Vision Green is page 13:

“The Green Party will reduce taxes on things we all want, like income and employment, and we will increase taxes on things we do not want – things that will harm people and our environment.

Our ‘green tax cuts’ will be progressive, with a schedule that gives industry time to gear up or down. And it will be revenue neutral because a tax shift is not a tax grab. Income and payroll taxes will decline and the changes will help not hurt, less fortunate members of our society.

To set the rights prices, we have to change to a ‘true’ or ‘full-cost’ accounting method that incorporates economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits in the national accounts. Using this method, products and services are taxed, and thus priced, according to the positive or negative impacts caused throughout their lifecycle…

There are other ways to put taxes to work improving our society. Our tax system must be designed to reduce poverty, encourage environmentally-beneficial activities, and generate more wealth for the 90% of Canadian families who are currently working harder without getting further ahead…

Green Party MPs will:

Institute a full range of ‘polluter pays’ taxes, including a carbon tax designed to reduce the use of fossil fuels by making them more expensive to produce and burn. All these taxes will be revenue neutral. The revenues generated will be offset by reduced taxes on personal income, payroll and on green products and technologies. The new taxes will also be non-regressive (eg, the carbon tax will include a rebate program for low-income Canadians living in rural areas).

Eliminate personal taxes on income levels below the low-income cut-off (no taxes on incomes of $20,000 or less).

Provide increased tax breaks for Canadians who donate to registered charities.”

Quick Translation: The Green Party will create a revenue-neutral tax shift where polluters pay and income taxes go down.”

Won’t it feel good to vote Green?

Posted by Vanessa on April 12th, 2011

Filed under Economics | 1 Comment »

Harper Government More Important than Democracy

Last week’s statement by PM Harper that being found in contempt of Parliament multiple times and being charged with election fraud are merely ‘distractions’ is a clear sign of the lack of respect he has for Canadian democratic institutions.

Make no mistake, these systems are in place as safeguards against abuses of power by those who claim to lead us. This government, which has managed to cling to power for going on five years now despite the support of less than 25% of eligible voters, has consistently shown that they consider Parliament and the people of Canada to be simply obstacles in the way of their doing business.

Claiming that the economy is their #1 priority (while running up record deficits) attempts to scare people into compliance with a false argument.

The real argument here, and all left and right parties will make it, is that we are mere units in an economy and that, beyond the economy, everything else is secondary. Somehow a strong GDP translates into a ‘better’ country.

Well, when my Mom got cancer and died, that increased the GDP. That’s as far as I need to go to know that there is something fundamentally wrong with trying to run a country based on GDP.

The Green Party is different. Unlike the traditional left-right continuum of economic-based Parties, the Greens are ecologically-based.

Now, before you go off and start trumpeting that this is why we will never lead, take one minute to think about what this means.

Greens look at the whole system and figure out how to make it run as best as possible. We are not so focused on the economy that we ignore the quality of life that citizens enjoy.

We’re smarter than that. We know that quality of life is what should determine how the economy runs.

What does a green economy look like? It doesn’t pollute without cost. It provides local, resilient employment so that all Canadians can enjoy a higher standard of living instead of the increasing concentration of wealth into a few hands.

And it doesn’t think that someone dying of cancer is a good thing because it brings more money into the system.

Instead of sick care, a green economy promotes health care. Real health care. Not more prescriptions because those help drug companies. But healthier citizens because that increases the quality of life.

Change is coming. It won’t be from the left-right parties who are trapped in their economy first mindset.

It will come from the increasing number of people who realize that their lives are more important than money. That’s why I vote Green.

Posted by Vanessa on March 17th, 2011

Filed under Economics, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

The Decline of a Superpower

A friend of mine linked to the Maclean’s article, “Third World America”, by Luiza Ch. Savage yesterday. It paints a truly terrifying portrait of where North America is heading – crumbling infrastructure, destitute municipalities, and a general weakening of our societal bonds. We have outsourced our middle class jobs and allowed a transfer of wealth which, as Rich Dad’s Robert Kiyosaki has said, is the greatest ever seen in history. And it is getting worse. One dystopic future, and, sadly, a natural progression from this article, is described for Bowen Island, off the coast of BC.

While our government has tried to tell us that their stellar stewardship has seen us safely through the most recent recession, what they have failed to mention is that the situation is only going to further deteriorate as we transfer more and more control of our currencies into the hands of global speculators. And as we continue to decimate our manufacturing sector through reckless free trade agreements (like the deal currently being negotiated with Europe, the CETA).

Furthermore, in Canada, now that we have sold most of the ownership of natural resources to foreign companies, and strengthened our indentured status with the United States, we seem to have run out of things to sell to artificially prop up our economy. Even Minister Flaherty seems to have acknowledged this, issuing a statement last week that calls for very modest growth over the next several years. Guess that deficit they created isn’t going to go away as quickly as they said it would. Quel surprise!

(Though the Conservatives still somehow expect to return to balanced budgets with smaller growth, less corporate tax, and less payroll tax than they had originally predicted. Given their disdain for science and research, I can only assume they feel the same way about basic math, because their calculations just don’t work.)

As the gap between the haves and the have-nots increases, and the middle class increasingly feels the strain, the appearance of a fortress mentality draws closer. The economic ideology of neo-cons and neo-liberals has not worked, it is creating failed states and needs to be stopped.

But there is an alternative, and it is one that I encourage Canadians to start paying more attention to. Transition Towns is a movement that began in the UK and has grown rapidly in the last several years. York Region now has its very own Transition group and it is sharing its vision of localized and resilient economies and communities with residents, business groups, and local governments.

If you are wondering what you, as an individual or a small business, can do to become more resilient, contact your local Transition Town initiative and find out how to become involved with creating a better future. Reduce your debt as much as possible because low interest rates will not prevent the inflation that is coming. And, finally, invest in hard currency, get as much real gold and silver as you can so that when the paper currencies crash you will be on the correct side of the wealth transfer.

I desperately hope I’m wrong, but if I’m not there are grim days ahead if we do not change our economic ways, begin to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, and re-localize our economies.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Addendum:

October 13, 2010

I would like to add that this was in no way meant to provide specific financial advice and that any actions you take regarding your own financial security need to be examined critically by you to your satisfaction of due diligence.

Posted by Vanessa on October 13th, 2010

Filed under Canada, Economics | 4 Comments »

Stockwell Day and the Crime Rate

A few thoughts:

1) This video is funny. It’s fun to make fun of our Conservatives who favour ideology over data. And Stockwell Day is a prime target.

2) Yes, crime rates per 1000 are higher than they were in the 60s. You can see it in the Corrections Canada article I link in #5.

3) Yes, there are unreported crime statistics. They compare reported crimes with surveys asking people if they have been the victim of a crime (victimization stats).

4) The Conservative attempts to justify their ‘tough on crime’ approach, and to take credit for a decline in crime that has been happening for over a decade, are painful yet hard to resist watching. By raising the mandatory sentences and changing the credit system for time already served they will increase the prison population significantly and thus require that $9b in new prisons and management.

5) This is an interesting article about the effect of the Baby Boom on the prison population and crime rate. The general idea is that when you have a massive population surge of young people you are going to see more crime. As people age, they are less likely to commit crime. However, they are increasingly paranoid and ready to believe that the world is a more dangerous place. Even if it isn’t. As an ideological government, it makes sense, therefore, not to tell the voting population the truth, but to tell them what they already believe.

6) As always, discussions on crime statistics remind me of FreakonomicsFreakonomics and the idea that legalized abortion has a significant impact on decreasing crime rates. Funny how the Conservatives don’t talk about that at all.

Posted by Vanessa on August 3rd, 2010

Filed under Conservatives, Economics | 7 Comments »

My Plumber and Politics

I was up in Barrie this morning having a leaky pipe replaced and my plumber (who is fabulous!) and we got to talking about politics – specifically the HST and the effect it will have on Ontario’s economy (he didn’t think it would be good). I let slip that I was the nominated GPC candidate in Newmarket-Aurora and that got him all excited, apparently he always votes Green.

Not only does he vote Green, he has a pretty good working knowledge of the local Barrie chapter, and the Canadian political landscape in general, and some very firm opinions about certain politicians, and, sadly, politicians as a group.

But it was when he welcomed me to the military-industrial complex while we were discussing the BP oil spill, that I knew I had met someone out of the ordinary. He mentioned Halliburton’s role in the crisis, their purchase of the company that manufactures the dispersant, and the divestiture of stock by a BP exec just before the explosion.

I confess, I find these coincidences to be rather intriguing:

“7. Curiously, CEO of BP, Tony Hayward dumped 1/3 of his BP stock holdings($2.1 million dollars) weeks before the oil rig explosion

8. Coincidentally, Goldman Sachs dumped 44% – 4,680,822 shares – of its stock in BP Oil weeks before the spill – no other oil company, just BP. This also represented an unusual transaction, being two times the size of any normal stock trade for an institution its size.

9. Weeks before the oil spill, Haliburton acquired Boots & Coots, a Houston-based oil well intervention/oil safety/oil spill cleanup company, an investment criticized by many as an “unwise” investment at the time”

I know it isn’t worthwhile to keep breaking pipes just so we can continue our conversation but I think it might very well be worthwhile to meet at the pub for a pint.

Posted by Vanessa on July 14th, 2010

Filed under Canada, Democracy, Economics, environment | 2 Comments »

Downsizing Detroit – Anyone want a farm?

A friend of mine sent me this interesting, and kind of disturbing article about Detroit’s proposed solution to its urban sprawl and diminishing populations: tearing down the neighbourhoods and creating new agricultural land.

It has taken me a while to write about it, because, honestly, I wasn’t sure what I could say – it is heartbreaking to see a city that was built on the promises of a modern world in decay and decline. But it is also unsurprising – thanks to Michael Moore’s early films like Roger and Me (which focused on Flint, MI), it is widely known that Detroit was made promises by the auto industry that were not kept.

Promises that could not be kept given the current legislation that deals with corporations (and, yes, I realize that legislation in the States is different than here). Corporate Charter legislation that demands they provide ever-increasing profit to their shareholders, regardless of consequences. ‘Free’-Trade Legislation that makes it more affordable to build cars 1,000 or 5,000 kilometres away from the market where they will be sold than to pay union wages. Accounting and Income Tax legislation that allows companies to externalize environmental and social justice repercussions of the decisions they make. And, finally, a legislative bundle that has created an entire generation of corporate CEOs and profiteers with a twisted set of values where a dollar is more important that a human life and lying is justified when it will make more profit.

I don’t really have a problem with delivering value and profit, that is what companies are for, after all. The problem I have is with the current definition of ‘value’. As a Green, if a company wants to deliver value to me, then it had better be thinking, not just about the jingle of money in my piggy bank, but also the long-term health and well-being of me, my children and my community. I care about the sustainability of my investments, I want to know that it is a good idea not just for me, but for my kids and their grand-kids.

And I have to say that the current corporate culture does not seem to be taking us in that direction. Our current system of fines is largely meaningless and has almost no power to change the behaviour of a corporation – especially for the largest ones, the current fines are considered part of doing business, certainly not a deterrent. Yet, in case after case, companies that take better care of their employees, community, and the environment are more profitable than those who insist on sticking to the ‘status quo’.

So here’s what I would like to see: a Corporate Charter granted in Canada would be dependent upon the company agreeing to both domestic and foreign Corporate Social Responsibility Charters and that, if a corporation was in violation of that Charter on a regular basis, that the Charter would be revoked, the Corporation would be dissolved, and the proceeds of asset sales would be used to compensate employees and shareholders. I would like to see the onus of proof on the corporations themselves, and I would like to see this legislation enforced.

Oh, and one other tidbit I would love to see thrown in to deal with exorbitant executive salaries: let’s cap their compensation at 1000x that of the lowest paid worker. That’s right, if you operate in a free trade zone and the worker there makes $0.50 or $1.00 per day, your total compensation (no sneaking around with stock transfers) is going to work out to around $52,000 per year. Too low, you protest. How about 10,000 times? $520,000 doesn’t sound too bad. Does it? Right now, there are many executives being paid 100,000 to 1 million times more than their lowest paid worker. Does that seem right? Do you think that companies would behave differently if their compensation were tied to that of their lowliest employee (contract or part-time)? I do.

As for Detroit, a relic of the modern-age experiment in automobiles, perhaps they will figure out a way to revitalize their economy and transition to sustainable growth through green industry… or maybe it will just become a great place to own a farm.

Posted by Vanessa on April 12th, 2010

Filed under accountability, Canada, Economics, environment, U.S. | 1 Comment »

Green Energy Sector? I don’t think so.

I have to thank Elizabeth May for pointing this out last Friday at the Green Party of Canada Economic Summit in Toronto.

Please turn to page 102 of your copy of Budget 2010. You do have one, right? If by some oversight your copy hasn’t arrived yet, you can download it here.

Read with me, if you will, the first paragraph of the creatively titled section: Green Jobs and Growth.

Canada has established itself as an energy superpower, being the third-largest global producer of gas, seventh in oil production, and the world’s largest supplier of uranium. Our international reputation as a safe and reliable energy supplier creates unprecedented opportunities for exporting our energy products within an integrated North American energy market and to the rest of the world. Our substantial reserves of oil, natural gas and other energy sources make Canada an increasingly attractive destination for global investment. These major new investments will allow us to tap our abundant energy potential while contributing to faster economic growth, creating a significant number of high value jobs and rejuvenating communities, especially in remote and rural areas.

Awesome! It really convinces me that our government is on the right track with Green development. Gas, oil and uranium – it just doesn’t get greener than that. Okay, I’m totally kidding. The second paragraph is no better but the third paragraph is very promising with a discussion of renewable energy sources leading up to these bullet points.

Bullet 1: A billion dollars for “clean energy technologies” through the Clean Energy Fund. Since they’ve already allotted $800 million to carbon capture and storage (CCS) there really isn’t any doubt that it is actually a CCS Fund.

Bullet 2: A billion dollars over 5-years for the Green Infrastructure Fund. No idea? Me neither. So I looked here and, ohmigosh, this is brilliant.

Eligible projects are those that promote cleaner air, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and cleaner water and fall within any of the following categories: wastewater infrastructure; green energy generation infrastructure; green energy transmission infrastructure and solid waste infrastructure, and carbon transmission and storage infrastructure.

Looks great right up until the end… do you see it? CCS! “The fund will focus on a few, large scale, strategic infrastructure projects.” Definitely something to keep an eye on. To be fair, almost half of the Fund has already been allocated and none of it is for CCS so far. Here are the projects so far – mostly water treatment and energy transmission. I stand corrected.

“But it has to get better!” you say. All right, let’s move on. After some discussion on transforming the forestry sector the Budget moves on to Modernizing the Regulatory System where we find efforts to streamline major projects (insert oil sands and CCS joke here) and this nugget: “Responsibility for conducting environmental assessments for energy projects will be delegated from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for projects falling under their respective areas of expertise” (p104).

No. Seriously. The government is moving Environmental Assessments away from CEAA to the National Energy Board. Say good-bye to any attempts at oversight. Getting angry now? I am.

But it gets better. There is some good ideas on page 105 about Forestry and Accelerated Capital Cost Allowances for renewable energy projects. Good, good, things are looking up. Projects for Great Lakes and Arctic monitoring and the development of Environmental Sustainability Indicators. Not sure how those will provide jobs or grow the Green Economy but they are nice. I’m starting to feel a bit more hopeful. And then…

The section finishes with Nuclear Energy on page 107. The section basically says, and this is a heavy paraphrase, “It’s losing lots of money but we’ll continue to support it!”

Just a reminder that if you want to see Green Economics then you had better Vote Green.

Posted by Vanessa on March 11th, 2010

Filed under Canada, Economics, environment | 4 Comments »

Just how uneven is the oil and gas playing field?

After taking a more careful read through the new Budget I’ve been able to add a few more numbers to my prior post on oil and gas subsidies.

I’m still not up to Mr. Duceppe’s $3.2 billion in subsidies but I’m getting closer.

First off, we have the temporary 15-per-cent Mineral Exploration Tax Credit (METC), first implemented in 2003 and now extended until 2011. (At least they didn’t increase it to 30% as they were lobbied to do by PDAC last August.) The METC is mentioned on page 97 of the 2010 Budget but is only supposed to cost $65 million over the next two years so that can’t be the main item (p338).

The METC is a tax-incentive that investors and companies involved with renewable energy can not hope to match because you don’t have to explore for the sun and wind, nor do you have to damage the Earth to harvest them because they are above ground, not buried in a rock. It is part of the Green Party of Canada platform to change the Income Tax Act to level the playing field between renewable and non-renewable energy development.

Or, Mr. Duceppe could have been referring to the 5-year, $1 billion Clean Energy Fund “to support research, development and demonstration of promising clean energy technologies, including carbon capture and storage technologies” (p103 Budget 2010). $800 million has already been given to various carbon-capture projects including the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line (ACTL).

This one is a total joke, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an unproven technology at this scale that our government is relying upon to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry to acceptable levels. If they invested directly in Green technologies, this would be unnecessary.

But that still doesn’t get us to $3.2 billion – I’m stalling out at less than $1.1 billion. Numbers that I’ve run into around the internet are $1.4 billion. Still pretty uneven.

There is particular concern about the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance program which allows tar, excuse me, oil sands developers to write off capital expenses faster than normal. Apparently, though, the government is planning to phase this out by 2015.

I have to agree with PDAC on one thing – if you are going to have a tax incentive, or any investment incentive, it needs to be predictable. Investors do not like temporary programs.

Posted by Vanessa on March 11th, 2010

Filed under Canada, Economics | Comments Off

Now *that* is some quick spin

It was so fast I had to go back and read it again. On Tuesday during Question Period, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe and PM Stephen Harper had a little exchange about oil and gas companies that caught my eye while reading the Hansard. (Yup, I’m totally poli-geeking out.) Here is the exchange under Oral Questions: Government Spending.

{snip}

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is quite right to say that this is a first: it is the first time I have seen a government abolish vacant positions.

The government could recover $3 billion if it prohibited the use of tax havens, but it prefers to abolish vacant positions. It could do away with tax benefits for the oil companies, which would save $3.2 billion, but it prefers to abolish vacant positions. It could cut military spending by $1 billion, but it prefers to abolish vacant positions.

Will the Prime Minister admit that what is lacking is not solutions, but political will?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, obviously, the first step in abolishing positions is not to fill them. If the leader of the Bloc would care to suggest any other positions that should be abolished, I encourage him to do so.

The Bloc leader talks about subsidies for the oil companies. This government has cut taxes for all businesses in Canada, not just the oil companies. This is another example of grandstanding by the Bloc.

{snip, emphasis mine}

umm… I could be wrong here but I’m pretty sure that Mr. Duceppe was not talking about tax cuts for the oil and gas industry.

Actually, I’m almost positive he was talking about eliminating the incentives for oil and gas exploration and production that result in a more-than billion dollar subsidy for oil and gas companies and their investors.*

Sadly, none of that was mentioned due to the deft handling by Mr. Harper. Very impressive. And too bad that Mr. Duceppe couldn’t handle the pass.

*I’m not sure where Mr. Duceppe got the $3.2 billion figure from – let me know if you do.

Posted by Vanessa on March 11th, 2010

Filed under Canada, Economics | 1 Comment »