Spotted in the wild today in Toronto

While walking along St. Clair, what should I see but the new TTC low-floor, high capacity streetcar/LRT:


That picture doesn’t exactly give you a sense of how much more train-like these bad boys are. Here’s a different angle:


Okay, maybe not super-interesting for everyone, especially if you don’t live at the Centre of the Universe. Nevertheless, I think many people across the country are very frustrated by the collective paralysis that seems to have descending upon the nation — our seeming incapacity to do anything about any of the major collective action problems that we are confronting, from environmental protection, to pharmacare, to transportation. So it’s nice to see, every once in a while, something actually improve in the public sector.

Incidentally, they were built by Bombardier, in Thunder Bay (something that Rob Ford complained a lot about, but I can’t get too upset by).… Continue reading

Temporary Foreign Workers – Why Now?

I admit to being a bit surprised about how just how the temporary foreign worker program hit the front pages over recent weeks. For migration policy wonks, the myriad problems with temporary foreign worker programs are well known, and usually do not centre on putting citizen workers out of jobs.

I’ve been mulling it over and have come to the conclusion that the current uproar might even have been deliberately provoked to provide a politically palatable way to end to the most progressive aspect of the temporary foreign worker program.

Temporary foreign worker programs are not new. Canada has relied on temporary foreign workers off and on for much of the last century. Many other Western democracies have done the same.

The basic idea behind a temporary non-citizen worker program is to create a category of workers who have fewer rights than citizens or permanent residents. This framework ensures that the workers can be directed to particular employers or sectors, and can be compelled to leave when their work is finished.… Continue reading

Still Not Fixed

The crisis provoked by the Prime Minister’s malicious accusations about the Chief Justice has left the front pages. And while there has been some backtracking, the record has not been set straight. So I thought it would still be worth posting the link to this letter from leaders in Canada’s legal community. Take a look here.

There is almost nothing else to be said about this particular bit of craziness as an unusually high number of excellent articles about it have run in the mainstream press across the country, and in many other places besides. My point is simply not to let this become one more thing that we almost forget in the long string of reprehensible actions by this government.

The Prime Minister’s actions in this case demonstrate a basic disrespect for the rule of law, unprecedented in the long history of the relationship between the judiciary and the executive in this country.… Continue reading

Impôt progressif vs tarification progressive: vers une démonstration plus étoffée?

Le gouvernement Couillard soupèse l’idée d’augmenter modérément le tarif des places en CPE pour les familles fortunées. Comme c’est toujours le cas lorsqu’il s’agit des questions touchant à la tarification des services publics, ce ballon d’essai suscite un débat passionné. Une des dimensions particulièrement intéressantes du débat sur la tarification progressive des places en garderies qui sont présentement à 7$ est qu’on peut s’y opposer pour des raisons qui sont elles-mêmes diamétralement opposées.

D’un côté, des personnes qui ne sont pas du tout à droite s’insurgent contre l’idée de devoir payer davantage que les ménages dont les revenus sont plus modestes en raison du fait qu’ils paient déjà, toutes proportions gardées, plus d’impôts que ceux qui sont moins fortunés. Comme notre système d’imposition progressive fait déjà en sorte que le taux marginal d’imposition des mieux nantis est plus élevé, il serait inéquitable de leur demander en plus de payer davantage pour des services publics.… Continue reading

Corporate tax cuts: cui bono?

Whenever the NDP announces its intention to raise corporate taxes, critics always jump all over them, pointing out that the tax on corporations is not really a tax on corporations, since corporations can easily pass these taxes on to others (such as consumers in the form of higher prices, or workers in the form of lower wages). Yet these critics seldom stop to note that the argument cuts both ways. If corporations don’t really pay these taxes, then what is the point of cutting them either? Indeed, the Progressive Conservative party in Ontario is currently campaigning on a platform that calls for a dramatic reduction of corporate taxes – by 3.5%, from 11.5% to 8% (much more significant than the NDP platform, which calls for an increase of 1%). So why are the Conservatives so much more exercised about this issue than the NDP?

Before getting too far into it, I should mention that underlying the criticism of the NDP there is an important point, which relates to the concept of tax incidence.… Continue reading

On sports partisanship, or, why I bleed bleu-blanc-rouge

I have been derelict in my blogging duties these last few weeks. I could claim that the exigencies of the end of the academic year, with its grading and travelling to academic conferences, have been responsible for my silence. I could also claim post-election fatigue. But those would only be half-truths. The fact is that all that I have been thinking about these last few weeks – all anyone has been thinking about in Montreal – has been hockey. At time of writing, our city’s much-beloved Canadiens are three rounds deep into the NHL playoffs. The rhythms of the city have over the course of the last month-and-a-half or so been those of more or less thrice-weekly hockey games, followed by off-days during which the city attempts to recover a normal heart rate and breathing pattern, before being plunged again into collective hyperventilation and cardiac shock.

Here are some of the things that I have done these last few weeks in order not to have to miss any games: during a recent trip to the UK for academic talks, I stayed up by myself in my hotel room in Southampton until 3AM watching the Canadiens clinch their second-round series against the dastardly Boston Bruins on a choppy CBC feed (which for some reason was in Punjabi!).… Continue reading

On racism and race consciousness

I have Jonathan Kay to thank for the series of excerpts from my book, Enlightenment 2.0, that the National Post ran during the week of April 14-19. The paper did, however, do me a slight disservice by running the last excerpt under the heading “How to Beat Racism.” (It’s always important to remember, when reading a newspaper, that the headlines are written by different people than the articles.) This made it sound as though I thought there were some kind of easy formula that could be followed to overcome racism. (Ivor Tossell also took issue with this, in his Globe and Mail review, complaining about my attempt “to diagnose and prescribe a balm for America’s race problem in three pages, flat.”)

The fact that I go on to discuss “the eternal problem” of race in America might suggest that I am less optimistic about the problem being solved anytime soon.… Continue reading

Some Enlightenment 2.0 housekeeping

I spent the morning today down at CBC Radio, taping an interview with Michael Enright for Sunday Edition, which will be broadcast in 2 or 3 weeks. I also did Ontario Today on CBC last week, for those who are interested. Phone-in shows are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand they’re pretty relaxed, because people almost always ask really long questions, so you have lots of time to think about what to say (unlike with hosts, who almost always ask very short questions, then get fidgety once you’ve talked for more than 30 seconds). On the other hand, the discussion on these shows tends to be rather untidy, because it bounces from one topic to another. So you don’t leave it with the sense of having said anything in particular.

In any case, talking about the book some more has reminded me of a few items of unfinished business.… Continue reading

Trolling Sun News

Personally I always turn down interview requests from Sun TV. Partly it’s because they’re not a real news organization, but rather a branch of the Conservative Party posing as a news organization. But mainly it’s because of their attempt to smear my colleague Peter Loewen a few years back.

Nevertheless, if you have to do an interview with Sun TV, you can’t do much better than Scott Vrooman the other day. This is level 99 trolling:


Continue reading

About those million jobs…

The other day in the Ottawa Citizen I was complaining about the made-up quality of certain numbers that the Ontario Progressive Conservative party has been throwing around, such as their “Million Jobs Plan”:

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to pluck a number out of thin air and then make it the central organizing theme of one’s campaign.

For reasons of space I neglected to mention that the PCs did make some attempt to explain where they got the “one million” number from. They provided to journalists — not to the public, but just to journalists — a breakdown of where the jobs were supposed to come from. These numbers were suspiciously exact, as opposed to suspiciously round. But it turns out there may be even bigger problems with them.

Just to provide a sense, here is how the CBC reported what they got from the party:

Hudak’s plan acknowledges that more than 523,000 jobs would be created anyway if the government simply continued the policies of the last decade.

Continue reading