Blog

A young Canadian’s guide to the Mueller Report

This blog sets out how Canadian national leadership is different than in the US, provides an example from the past (Nixon), but more than anything, it shows what can happen when a lengthy and thorough report is widely mishandled and misunderstood by the media and the public. So far, I am the only Canadian I am aware of who has read the whole of the Mueller Report; all 729 pages. This report is by a special counsel who looked into Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential campaign. Before I give you my takeaways from the report, young Canadians need to know that Canadian leadership is different than in the United States. Our Prime Minister (PM) leads a party and the party must win the most seats to win (or enter…
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Much ado about everything:  But the problem is ‘ruling from the centre’

I think that everyone may be telling the truth to the Commons committee. And that’s a problem for a committee that’s trying to find out who may be lying. The law of the instrument holds that if a five year old boy is given a hammer, everything he sees is a nail. If a committee is given a soapbox to look for fibs and whoppers, they will do their level best to find them. Can we think about this for a moment? There’s a Cabinet Shuffle and Jody Wilson Raybould loses her dream job and quits Cabinet thinking that she was fired over the SNC Lavalin affair. This makes perfect sense as it would seem far-fetched that the retirement of Scott Brison as Treasury Board Chair would signal the removal…
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Build it up! Rip it down!  A young person’s guide to how our political system works in 2019

This is a short blog on everything you need to know about politics. Here are the 5 bare facts – everything you need to know: Canada has at least 3 functioning political parties; likely 4 One party at each level of government is conservative – the other three (Liberal, NDP and Green) are progressive About 40%[1] of Canadians are conservative. Some say 30% - some say more than 40%. I will stick with 40% We have a first past the post electoral system – winner takes all. We do not have mandatory voting meaning that 60% is a high voter turnout. What this means is that if a conservative party can marshal their natural vote of 40%, they will win every election with a majority. Progressives will split the remaining…
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A tale of two clawbacks

  “They're selling postcards of the hanging; They’re painting the passports brown. The beauty parlor is filled with sailors, The circus is in town.” Bob Dylan Desolation Row  Highway 61 Revisited, 1965 I want to try something different. I don’t want to get cynical or ‘desolate’ and engage in the usual hand wringing. I don’t want to harangue people about bad policy-making or tell governments that they don’t care. This is not a tale of futility. It’s more about vigilance and a call to improved advocacy from all of us. For decades, economists on the right and the left, politicians, the public, and program recipients have complained about high marginal effective tax rates (METRs). These occur when tax rates on income combine with program clawbacks to create disincentives to earn more income. The…
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Everyone loves a basic income – why worry about its pedigree?

I always like to recall the four rules of keeping out of poverty. Three are derived from the Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), the most robust survey of North American families over a 50 year period[1]. The PSID generated 3 rules for keeping out of poverty: Get a job - any job - and keep it; Get a partner – any partner - and keep him or her; and Go to school as long as you can and graduate. The fourth rule was told to me first by labour leader Terry Meagher over 30 years ago as the best way that he saw that anyone could stay out of poverty. That rule is #4: Choose your parents wisely. If you are lucky enough to observe all four rules,…
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Understanding the Ontario backlash against Canada’s first poverty reduction strategy

On the afternoon of August 17, 2018, the advisory committee on poverty reduction to federal Minister Jean Yves Duclos received an hour long briefing from the Minister on the soon to be released poverty reduction strategy. It was a key opportunity for the 17 of us to discover how much influence we had in the drafting of the final report. I was returning to Scarborough from the Queens International Institute on Social Policy (QIISP) and had pulled off the 401, west of Deseronto and parked in a verdant cul de sac on the lands of the Mohawk people, the Tyendinaga First Nation. It was a good setting to listen and respond to the Minister. As Minister Duclos briefed us, a slow smile formed on my face as I began to…
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The hierarchy of deservedness continues

In July 1974, The GAINS program began in Ontario that guaranteed a single senior and a single person with a disability of $50 a week or $216.67 a month “Ontario’s Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS). I am proposing a new Guaranteed Annual Income System, to be known as GAINS, for the elderly, blind and disabled in Ontario. The GAINS program will guarantee an income of $50 a week for all single persons and $100 a week for all married couples who are aged 65 and over, and for those who are blind or disabled and receive Family Benefits. This represents a guaranteed annual cash income of $5,200 a year for a married couple and $2,600 for a single person. In future, the guaranteed income levels will be increased periodically in order…
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Almost forever PC: David Croll & Mitch Hepburn were the only Liberals to ever enact social assistance legislation in Ontario

This past week, I have been reflecting on my 50th year of working in social services in Ontario. I started as a summer student washing walls in an old age home in the first week of July 1968. This was the Department of Social and Family Services and the Minister was John Yaremko (who I later interviewed at the age of 90 in 2005). The place was Lachlan Lodge on Elm Street in Toronto (now the YWCA) and it turned out to have been re-purposed many times from one of Toronto’s earliest poorhouses to a House of Industry, then a House of Refuge for the aged, to its ‘modern’ incarnation as a Home for the Aged in the late 1940’s. When I was there, there were still bars on the…
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The App Gap[1]

At home and in the community, it has become almost impossible for people of modest means to apply for basic benefits.   For many people with disabilities, advanced age, or who have been out of work, they need basic income security to survive. Fifty years ago, there was no ‘online’ and the cost of applying for benefits was the cost of a postage stamp or a visit to an office. Fast forward to 2018 and we have moved to a supposedly more efficient and accessible online approach. In reality, online applications multiply barriers, rather than remove them. This “App Gap” speaks to the inequities that lie in these systems, and that prevent almost a quarter million Canadians on low-income from accessing resource they are eligible for. This past December, Wellesley…
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Apple: You’ve lost your way!

I seldom if ever blog about a personal consumer experience. However, I have been very much moved by a recent customer service experience with the world’s largest company: Apple. Like many who own the iPhone 6, I experienced a huge loss in loading speeds for applications and email a couple of months ago. Like others. I blamed slow speeds on my WIFI internet or on my phone company. But the loading speed was bad wherever I went and I started to suspect something. It turned out that everyone was suspecting something. Applications that used to take seconds were taking upwards of a minute. I personally experienced loading times of 30 times what they had been just a week before. Facebook, Marketwatch, email; you name it. Customer service failure #1: Apple…
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