Categories
Monetary policy

Exclusion of wealthy households from CPI among issues likely confounding Bank of Canada

Bank_of_Canada

A few months ago, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz announced he was giving up on economic models as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) stubbornly remained at or below the Bank’s target minimum rate. Then suddenly the CPI rose and remained at or above the Bank’s target midpoint as other economic indicators continued to show slack. Last week Mr. Poloz attributed the recent price surge to “temporary effects” while announcing the Bank was exploring a ‘neutral interest rate’ policy, effectively abandoning inflation targeting.

A closer look at how the CPI is produced may shed some light on why the measure has confounded the Bank of late.

Categories
Accountability Governance Transparency

StatsCan to collect Social Insurance Numbers despite lack of authorisation, oversight

If the census test currently underway is any indication, Statistics Canada is planning to collect a critical piece of personal identification from respondents during the upcoming census. A quick ‘told ya so’ (see What’s the end game) before proceeding.

A Social Insurance Number (SIN) can be used to obtain much more than just Canada Revenue Agency tax file data. That’s why the Government of Canada advises citizens to closely guard their SIN numbers from those not authorised to collect or use them.

Who can ask for my SIN number?
Frequently Asked Questions, Office of the Privacy Commissioner May 15, 2014 (last modified)

Annex 2 – Authorized Federal Uses of the SIN
The Social Insurance Number Code of Practice, Service Canada March 4, 2014 (last modified)

The referenced Privacy Commissioner and Service Canada pages both indicate the legislated and authorised users of Canadian SIN numbers. One agency absent from the list: Statistics Canada. The advice from both the Privacy Commissioner and Service Canada is that citizens shouldn’t share their SIN numbers with unauthorised users; at this point, that includes Statistics Canada. Whether that changes remains to be seen.

Categories
Aboriginal - First Nations Accountability Civil liberties Justice Race and ethnicity

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Hate crime up, race primary motive

Canada_injustice

Hate crimes in Canada: Most violent against gays, black people most targeted racial group
Craig Takeuchi, straight.com June 27, 2014

The referenced StatsCan release. As the article notes, the majority of all police-reported hate crimes (704 incidents, or 52 percent) were racially or ethnically motivated. Yet, remarkably, the few stories published focused on sexual orientation, a far less frequent motive (185 incidents, or 13%), albeit one involving greater incidence of violence.

Categories
Aboriginal - First Nations Accountability Civil liberties Justice Race and ethnicity

The sorry state of Canadian civil liberties: Defining away ‘diversity’

peter-mckay_mph

Photo above appears to be from The Canadian Press (original source unknown). The white rubber wristband federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay appears to wear is interesting. It’s popularly associated with the Make Poverty History campaign. Among the issues discussed by the Canadian MPH campaign is homeless veterans – interesting, given the accompanying Support Our Troops lapel pin.

Cynical symbology is a useful segue to the latest scandal Mr. MacKay finds himself facing, over a Mother’s Day greeting / supposedly sexist quip about female judges. Its absurdity was recently highlighted by an exchange of open letters between a columnist and his wife.

What the beleaguered Justice Minister wrote or said is secondary to his (can’t stress this point often enough) as well as previous Canadian governments’ policy decisions and resulting outcomes. And those outcomes are far worse for racial / ethno-cultural minorities than for women. Which begs the question(s): When/why/how did ‘diversity’ in judicial appointments become exclusively associated with female nominees, especially when the imbalance is many times greater for racial and other actual minority groups?

Categories
Environment

Environment: 400 ppm CO2 and the ‘disconnect between what we know and what we do’

C02_400ppm-April_2014.
S
ource: The Keeling Curve, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego

While observed CO2 concentration barely glanced it for the first time ever last Spring, the 400 parts per million (ppm) level was clearly breached last month (April 2014). The figure is a significant milestone. A plurality of environmental scientists have noted that exceeding the 400 ppm CO2 concentration levels will ” make it progressively more and more difficult to avoid further substantial climate change.”

Some critics simply dismiss science and scientists out of hand, to rather humorous effect (Doomsaying math whizzes just don’t understand capitalism Brian Lee Crowley, The Globe and Mail, March 21, 2014). Others proffer more thoughtful, nuanced equivocations. For example, some suggest if humans indeed had any impact on the rapid rise in CO2 concentration over the past half century, the human population explosion is the more likely culprit.

While there certainly is a historical correlation between population growth (PDF) and CO2 concentration, as the old adage goes, correlation is not causation. What that increasing population has been doing and, more importantly, how it’s been doing it has been the primary focus of most contemporary research on the topic.

So where does Canada fit into this picture? Facing increased scrutiny over its environmental record, it doesn’t help that Canada’s per capita fossil-fuel CO2 emissions are among the highest in the world, and, despite the country’s relatively tiny population, that Canada’s total fossil-fuel CO2 emissions are also among the highest in the world.

If there’s one thing Canadian policy-makers can hang their hats on, it’s that Canada’s overall share of industrial CO2 emissions hasn’t risen as much as some developing market economies’.

 

Categories
Accountability Justice Transparency

‘Broken Trust’ in Canadian justice system goes beyond lawyers’ criminality

Law Society of Upper Canada

Project: Broken Trust
Kenyon Wallace, Rachel Mendleson, Dale Brazao, Andrew Bailey, The Toronto Star May 2014

The law society is responsible for regulating Ontario’s 46,000 lawyers and 5,000 licensed paralegals… Of the approximately 4,700 complaints received annually, about 3,100 are authorized for full investigation. About 100 make it to a disciplinary hearing each year… 236 lawyers were disciplined by the law society for behaviour the Star characterized as criminal-like. Of those, 41 were charged criminally… 12 served time in jail…

Amount of client money these lawyers were responsible for misusing by stealing, defrauding, failing to account, overdrawing, improperly dispersing and other law society classifications, as found by the Star: $61,457,642

236 lawyers, $61.5 Million stolen – and those are just the ones against whom complaints were filed and disciplinary action was taken. The first story in the series gives an example: a defrauded client who had to pay $50,000 in legal fees to recover a $90,000 claim from the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC). Given that it takes more than a bit of time, effort, and financial security to file a complaint against a lawyer, that 1:10 complaint-to-lawyer ratio along with the total funds stolen by Ontario lawyers is likely the tip of the iceberg. That LSUC lawyers are more likely to become judges could help explain the dismal state of the Canadian justice system.

Categories
Employment Financial security Governance Taxation Trade and investment

r > g: ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’, meet ‘Kapital’ of the nineteenth century

Kapital_titelCapital_titre

One can’t have an economics page without commenting on this book, apparently. Its recently published English edition, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, was a US best-seller – a remarkable feat for a hefty econ tome.

For those who haven’t read it and/or have no intention of doing so, The Economist has taken to reviewing it in parts (of which there are four) for subscribers. It’s that important. The critique of Capital‘s conclusion is noteworthy:

 If the most likely outcome of the trends Mr Piketty describes is that somewhere down the line a left-of-centre government is elected and passes higher top income-tax rates, higher estate-tax rates and pension reforms, and that defuses the crisis, well, that puts the rest of the book in perspective. If the most likely outcome is revolution, well, that does too. And while it would be absurd to expect Mr Piketty to say definitely whether one possibility or another is bound to occur, I don’t think it’s asking too much, given the ambition of the rest of the book, to think we ought to be given some sense of his view on how social and political movements generally evolve in response to widening inequality, and how that evolution tends to be reflected in policy. What good is it to suggest utopian ideas about how to fix these problems without at least gesturing toward the political mechanisms needed to bring them about?

The topic of capital and wealth distribution precludes separating the political from the economic analysis – which, ironically, is the point of contention between Capital and Kapital. As Marx succinctly put it (prior to Kapital): Although theoretically the former is superior to the latter, in actual fact politics has become the serf of financial power.

In noting that the post-World-War periods during which income inequality declined were an aberration rather than proof that capitalism (as we’ve come to know it) optimally (re)distributes wealth, Piketty effectively supports Marx’s central premise that it doesn’t.

And it’s not just Piketty who (despite not conceding the point) has recently come to the uncomfortable realisation perhaps Marx was right.

However, Piketty (among others) ignores the obvious correlation between capital ownership and political influence by suggesting policy makers can address widening inequality by simply hiking taxes on capital wealth. Bill C-23, the Canadian ‘Fair’ Elections Act, and related recent events in the US speak to the obvious omission.

Picketty also ignores capital flight, a problem his home country of France faced only a few short years ago. And that was before it elected a Socialist government and a famed French actor made it headline news.