Minimum wage whack-a-mole

Minimum-wage whack-a-mole is the best way to describe what I’ve been up to the past couple months. It seems like every week or so in August and September, the business lobby in Ontario was serving up a plate of inaccurate yet headline-grabbing predictions for consumption in the public debate.

Going against the grain of the best academic research and recent experience elsewhere, these reports have attempted to scare Ontarians into thinking that the costs of raising the minimum wage outweigh the benefits. As 53 Canadian economists, including myself, outlined in an open letter published earlier in the summer, new research is clear: raising the minimum wage is good for workers and the economy.

Here’s a quick list of pieces I’ve written over the past months countering the inflated, sometimes heavily so, predictions of minimum wage opponents. (more…)

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What do we do when we Fight for $15

On this episode, three guests provide some perspective on the politics and the economics of the Fight for $15. First, I speak with Jonathan Rosenblum, campaign director at the first Fight for $15 at SeaTac Airport, just outside Seattle, Washington. Workers there won an immediate raise to $15 via a municipal ordinance in 2015. Jon is also an author and has recently published Beyond 15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement. Next, I move closer to home and talk to Sheila Block, economist at the Ontario office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Sheila lays out the context for the $15 and Fairness campaign in Ontario, one of changing work and a weaker labour movement. Rounding out the show, economics writer and researcher Nathan Tankus returns to the podcast to discuss the economic arguments in favour of raising the minimum wage. We go beyond the narrow issue of  minimum wages to broader challenges to “textbook economics.”

As always, remember to subscribe above to get new episodes as they appear, rate the show on iTunes and donate to help keep this good thing going. Thanks!

 

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The road tolls for thee

Last week, Toronto mayor Join Tory announced a plan to toll two major Toronto highways, the Gardiner and the DVP. The city is starved for cash with huge shortfalls for both infrastructure (new housing, new transit lines) and even everyday operating expenses. Tolls are supposed to help close this gap. But despite the absolutely huge revenue needs of this city, there a case to be made against tolls from the left.

There is a simple practical argument against the proposed tolls: they won’t raise very much money and any revenue is years away. City planners calculate about $200 million per year of new money once tolls are in place. That may sound like much but Toronto needs are in the vicinity of $30 billion just to catch up with a growing population and ageing infrastructure. And the city needs the money now.

toronto-road-tolls-20161124

John Tory has challenged those who oppose the tolls to spell out the alternative. Taxing parking spaces would raise $500 million and could be done right away. Getting residential and commercial property taxes to at least match long-term inflation and beat it, even with the necessary rebates for those house-rich, income-poor, would raise another huge chunk of cash. This isn’t even getting to more creative options—many of them included in an appendix to a KPMG report commissioned by Metrolinx.

Given the revenue crisis, lefties could easily come up with a viable, progressive money-raising plan even from a list prepared by the market-friendly consultants at KPMG. A municipal income tax? Why not since the province and the feds are raising less then they used to through this measure. Even a municipal sales tax with hefty rebates for low-income and working-class folks. It’s not a question of options but political strategy.

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Linda McQuaig on Hudak’s imaginary jobs and Canadian inequality

Today, I’m happy to present another extended interview and my guest is Linda McQuaig. Linda is a National Newspaper Award-winning journalist and commentator who has worked for the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star and many other outlets. She is also a best-selling author of numerous books that have focused on and popularized a host of economic issues. Her most recent book, co-written with Neil Brooks, is The Trouble with Billionaires: How the Super-Rich Hijacked the World and How We Can Take It Back. 

Just last week, Linda wrote a sharp piece critiquing Tim Hudak’s platform in the upcoming Ontario election. We discuss this article and Hudak’s plans in the first half of the interview, while moving on to more general questions centered on the topic of rising inequality in the second half.

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Hudak’s plans to cut teachers in statistics and politics

It’s election time in Ontario and that means graphs and statistics, facts and factoids, some stale, some new come out of the woodwork. Take the tweet below as an example, one that riffs on the old theme of an exploding public sector encapsulated in Tim Hudak’s promise to cut 100,000 public service jobs:

Let us even take the author’s word that he is non-partisan and found some seemingly interesting data; the focus is the chart, not him. There are two issues. The first is much simpler: the graph is a misportrayal. It uses data from a Statistics Canada sample-based survey to proxy for teacher employment and population data to proxy for student enrolment. While using proxies for missing data can be acceptable and justified, in this case, there is absolutely no reason for it. Both teacher employment data and enrolment data are exhaustively compiled by Ontario’s Ministry of Education. Here is the same graph with correct data:

140513 Teachers vs Enrolment
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