Canada’s (somewhat less) vast emptiness

In Canada, a lack of population doesn’t necessarily translate to a lack of roadway…


A lot of Canada’s dirt-based wealth can’t be immediately transported via pipeline and/or rail. The remarkable expanse of road infrastructure through the northern Prairies and into the Territories (and, to a lesser extent, northern Ontario and Quebec) – from which a great deal of that wealth is extracted, but where hardly any Canadians reside – speaks to that.

That being said, Canada’s still pretty empty. Few today would choose to live much further north, given Canada’s bitterly cold northern climate. That climate also limits Canada’s dirt-based wealth potential, making it difficult to grow things in and/or dig thing out of all that land up there.

Climate change may ‘fix’ that in the foreseeable future, however. As one of our favourite Econ profs once not-so-jokingly put it (off-the-record): Canada has the most to ‘gain’ from global warming – which goes a long way to explaining its environmental policy, or lack thereof…

Of Kijiji and babysitters: Piecing together Canada’s job vacancy puzzle


Of Kijiji and babysitters: Piecing together Canada’s job vacancy puzzle
Sam Boshra, The Globe and Mail April 15, 2014

Disclosure of Contracts Over $10,000: Wanted Technologies Corp.
Dept. Ref. No. Contract date Description of work Contract value
ESDC 9110-12 2011-08-16 0812 COMPUTER SERVICES $184,800.00
Finance 6015541 2013-12-06 0361 ELECTRONIC SUBSCRIPTIONS $17,000.00
StatsCan 2314 2013-11-26 1143 PRINTED MATTER $30,795.89

Disambiguation: ESDC is the former HRSDC, under which Service Canada falls

The StatsCan and Finance disclosures above were indexed and easily found using their respective department’s website search functions; On the other hand, ESDC’s disclosure was neither indexed nor searchable (discovered following feedback from Finance). Which is to say, it may not be the only such contract – will update if others come up. Why ESDC excludes its contract disclosures from being indexed and searchable is unexplained…

A few readers and friends suggested there was no point following up on this topic, as the government had been thoroughly embarrassed and was unlikely to try that (use an online job ad index as a labour market measure) again. As the ‘technical concerns’ comment from Employment Minister Jason Kenney suggests, that’s not entirely accurate.

What ESDC plans on doing with the data going forward is unclear. A previous post mentioned HRSDC had used the Wanted Analytics data in a couple of earlier reports (see Notes).

ESDC could create an ‘Indicator of Labour Market Tightness’, like the Conference Board of Canada’s. Such a measure could be used in tandem with the unemployment rate to further deny EI claims in areas where unemployment may be high, but where the labour market could be classified as slack based on the overinflated number of online job ads – suggesting the unemployed in such areas were simply refusing to take all the fictitious jobs available.

What StatsCan plans on doing with the data is also unclear. StatsCan produces the EI region unemployment rates ESDC uses to evaluate EI eligibility criteria.

StatsCan also used to run a Help Wanted Index based on jobs ads. As the Globe post notes, back in the 70′s StatsCan dropped its job vacancy survey for the more ‘cost-effective’ HWI – then dropped the HWI in 2003 after it became unreliable with the advent of online job advertising. It could bring back HWI. Or possibly produce that ‘Indicator of Labour Market Tightness’ for ESDC.

Who knows what kind of creative uses a government could come up with for such questionable data. For readers who doubt a federal government would resort to such measures, it’s worth recalling previous Finance Ministers have produced / projected balanced budgets using creatively engineered ‘surplus’ EI funds.

Readers unfamiliar with how far a government would go to deny legitimate EI claims should look up the recent story of Sylvie Therrien, a former Service Canada worker who was fired late last year after a witch-hunt determined she’d leaked docs to the press. The docs in question showed she and of her colleagues, under then Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, were each given a quota to deny/recover half a million dollars in EI claims. It’s worth noting who the HRSDC Deputy Minister and COO for Service Canada was at the time (hint, media).

Feminomics: (De)valuing women’s socio-economic influence

Chart 1 – Average hours worked per person (employment and self-employment, age 15+)

Chart 1 Average hours worked, labour

Source: CANSIM Tables 282-0001 and 282-0017 – Labour force survey estimates (LFS), Statistics Canada

It’s a website as well as a movement. Unfortunately, that movement has little to do with promoting either equal opportunity or social security for women, let alone acknowledging the value of their unpaid work. Rather, it seems singularly focused on the fact women are paid less than men.

Owing to their dual roles as mothers / primary caregivers as well as labour market participants, it’s no surprise the hours women commit to unpaid work necessarily translate to less hours on average available to commit to paid labour.

That doesn’t sit well with feminomists(?), who apparently see women choosing to be mothers / primary caregivers as a “systemic problem“. The real problem is distilling women’s socio-economic value to little more than labour market widgets. Rising inequality, the decreasing share of income to labour and the long shadow of the Great Recession may help bring things back into perspective.

After Decades of Decline, A Rise in Stay-at-Home Mothers
D’Vera Cohn, Gretchen Livingston and Wendy Wang, Pew Research Center April 8, 2014

From she to she: changing patterns of women in the Canadian labour force (PDF)
Canadian Economic Observer, Statistics Canada June 15, 2006

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March 2014 LFS: An alternative view. The R word

The March 2014 Labour Force Survey (LFS) release reported a rare increase in employment greater than the error term; unlike recent months, that change wasn’t attributable to self-employment, either. Rather, it was part-time, public sector employment. Despite the less-than-encouraging news, Canadian stocks rallied, underscoring the disconnect between capital market and real economy.

Now on to the months-long tradition of ignoring the monthly numbers and discussing broader trends and issues. This month, it’s the R word.

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The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: The day US democracy died — Canadian democracy not far behind


McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (PDF)
Supreme Court of the United States, April 2, 2014

Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (PDF)
Supreme Court of the United States, January 21, 2010

Presumably the Court wanted to wait an extra day – announcing such a decision on April Fool’s Day would have been a bit too obvious.

For readers who haven’t been following the fairly rapid unraveling of the US system of governance, today’s McCutcheon decision by the US Supreme Court found government- imposed limits on an individual’s aggregate election campaign spending unconstitutional. (Per-contribution limits still stand, meaning an individual would still have to put up with the inconvenience of writing multiple cheques — for the time-being).

It’s worth noting that one of the two federal political parties that have governed the US for most of its existence, represented by the Republican National Committee, was an appellant alongside Mr. McCutcheon. The judges who decided in favour of the appellant were to a man appointed by Republican presidents.

McCutcheon - along with the same Court’s Citizens United decision that saw the same judges find restrictions on corporate election campaign spending unconstitutional – means that not only can corporations buy elections and influence, now wealthy individuals can get in on it as well.

If anything, McCutcheon simply served to create consistency in the current Court’s effort to define away US democracy, since there’s little difference between corporations and America’s wealthiest individuals – the latter deriving their wealth from ownership of the former.


RIP, US democracy. And watch out, Canada.That ‘Fair Elections Act’ may be the tip of the iceberg. If/when it’s passed as-is, it would be interesting to see it challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada, Curious readers may wish to keep in mind the composition of the Canadian Court, as it’s far more stacked than its US counterpart, and will likely remain so for many years to come with two potential new nominations by the current government later this year.

Name Appointment Retirement Appointing PM Governing party
Mr. Justice Marc Nadon * October 3, 2013 March 21, 2014 Harper Conservative
Mr. Justice Richard Wagner October 5, 2012 April 2, 2032 Harper Conservative
Madam Justice Andromache Karakatsanis October 21, 2011 October 3, 2030 Harper Conservative
Mr. Justice Michael J. Moldaver October 21, 2011 December 23, 2022 Harper Conservative
Mr. Justice Thomas Albert Cromwell December 22, 2008 May 5, 2027 Harper Conservative
Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein March 1, 2006 December 25, 2015 Harper Conservative
Madam Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella August 30, 2004 July 1, 2021 Martin Liberal
Mr. Justice Louis LeBel January 7, 2000 November 30, 2014 Chrétien Liberal
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin March 30, 1989 September 7, 2018 Mulroney Progressive Conservative